A mother sat there with her little child. She was sodowncast， so afraid that it should die! It was sopale， the small eyes had closed themselves， and itdrew its breath so softly， now and then， with adeep respiration， as if it sighed; and the motherlooked still more sorrowfully on the little creature.
then a knocking was heard at the door， and in camea poor old man wrapped up as in a large horse-cloth， for it warms one， and he needed it， as itwas the cold winter season! Everything out-ofdoors was covered with ice and snow， and the wind blew so that it cut the face.
As the old man trembled with cold， and the little child slept a moment， the mother went andpoured some ale into a pot and set it on the stove， that it might be warm for him; the oldman sat and rocked the cradle， and the mother sat down on a chair close by him， and lookedat her little sick child that drew its breath so deep， and raised its little hand.
"Do you not think that I shall save him?" said she. "Our Lord will not take him from me!"
And the old man——it was Death himself——he nodded so strangely， it could just as wellsignify yes as no. And the mother looked down in her lap， and the tears ran down over hercheeks; her head became so heavy——she had not closed her eyes for three days and nights;and now she slept， but only for a minute， when she started up and trembled with cold.
"What is that?" said she， and looked on all sides; but the old man was gone， and her littlechild was gone——he had taken it with him; and the old clock in the corner burred， andburred， the GREat leaden weight ran down to the floor， bump! and then the clock alsostood still.
But the poor mother ran out of the house and cried aloud for her child.
Out there， in the midst of the snow， there sat a woman in long， black clothes; and shesaid， "Death has been in thy chamber， and I saw him hasten away with thy little child; hegoes faster than the wind， and he never brings back what he takes!"
"Oh， only tell me which way he went!" said the mother. "Tell me the way， and I shall findhim!"
"I know it!" said the woman in the black clothes. "But before I tell it， thou must first sing forme all the songs thou hast sung for thy child! I am fond of them. I have heard them before; Iam Night; I saw thy tears whilst thou sang'st them!"
"I will sing them all， all!" said the mother. "But do not stop me now——I may overtake him——I may find my child!"
But Night stood still and mute. then the mother wrung her hands， sang and wept， and therewere many songs， but yet many more tears; and then Night said， "Go to the right， into thedark pine forest; thither I saw Death take his way with thy little child!"
the roads crossed each other in the depths of the forest， and she no longer knew whither sheshould go! then there stood a thorn-bush; there was neither leaf nor flower on it， it wasalso in the cold winter season， and ice-flakes hung on the branches.
"Hast thou not seen Death go past with my little child?" said the mother.
"Yes，" said the thorn-bush; "but I will not tell thee which way he took， unless thou wilt firstwarm me up at thy heart. I am freezing to death; I shall become a lump of ice!"
And she pressed the thorn-bush to her breast， so firmly， that it might be thoroughlywarmed， and the thorns went right into her flesh， and her blood flowed in large drops， butthe thornbush shot forth fresh GREen leaves， and there came flowers on it in the cold winternight， the heart of the afflicted mother was so warm; and the thorn-bush told her the wayshe should go.
She then came to a large lake， where there was neither ship nor boat. The lake was not frozensufficiently to bear her; neither was it open， nor low enough that she could wade through it;and across it she must go if she would find her child! Then she lay down to drink up the lake，and that was an impossibility for a human being， but the afflicted mother thought that amiracle might happen nevertheless.
"Oh， what would I not give to come to my child!" said the weeping mother; and she weptstill more， and her eyes sunk down in the depths of the waters， and became two preciouspearls; but the water bore her up， as if she sat in a swing， and she flew in the rockingwaves to the shore on the opposite side， where there stood a mile-broad， strange house，one knew not if it were a mountain with forests and caverns， or if it were built up; but thepoor mother could not see it; she had wept her eyes out.
"Where shall I find Death， who took away my little child?" said she.